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Helicos Analyzes the Human Genome

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (TheStreet) -- A new generation of human genome technology analysis is represented by the Helicos Genetic Analysis System, a new machine from Helicos BioSciences (HLCS) of Cambridge, Mass.

The machine is the first commercially available, whole-molecule human genome sequencing system. The applications of this system range from diagnostic genome sequencing for individual patients to biotechnology research of a complexity not feasible until now. "The frontiers to be opened will involve uses of the human genome not even imagined today," said Steve Lombardi, Helicos president, in an interview.

The machine works by splitting the double helix of DNA into single strands and breaking the strands into small fragments that, on average, are 32 DNA units in length. Light emitted when a new helix is formed on these fragments characterizes the sequence in the original DNA. The light is computer analyzed and compared with human genome sequences already on file. This is done for billions of these small fragments and the differences in the test sequences from those most common in the general population identify what makes a certain individual unique.

In its literature, Helicos states: "Helicos' proprietary True Single Molecule Sequencing (tSMS) technology allows direct measurement of billions of strands of DNA enabling scientists to perform experiments and ask questions never before possible. Helicos believes the tSMS sequencing by synthesis approach will represent the first comprehensive and universal solution for single molecule genetic analysis, dramatically lowering the cost of individual analyses."

The technology was developed by Stephen R. Quake of Stanford University. The New York Times reported earlier this week that the professor used the technology to become the seventh individual in history to have his personal genome sequenced. The process took three people four weeks to perform at a cost of $50,000.

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